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News Article

Sargassum Affects the Mexican Caribbean

By María Fernanda Barría | Wed, 06/09/2021 - 11:28

The arrival of sargassum on the beaches of Quintana Roo has accelerated in the last month and continues to affect approximately 47 beaches in the region. Recently, Mexico's Naval Ministry (SEMAR) has collected over 10,462.76 tons and has implemented a strategy to contain the sargassum on the coasts of the Mexican Caribbean.

SEMAR has join forces with the government of Quintana Roo and the private sector to manually clean up the area with the help of civilians to carry the algae out of the beaches. In addition, the ministry implemented satellite surveillance, helicopters, 11 sargassum gathering vessels, small boats and most importantly, the ship Natan's BSO-101. Alejandro López Centeno, the coordinator of the National Strategy for Sargasso Attention and SEMAR's Rear Admiral, declared that "the work of the "Natans" is carried out in offshore waters to prevent the sargassum from reaching the coasts. It was built specifically for cargo since practically the entire vessel holds a capacity of 250 tons of sargassum."

According to SEMAR, more than 300 marines support the plan by counteracting the concentration of sargassum on the different beaches with the placement of more than 9,300 meters of containment barrier as a preventive procedure.

Moreover, SEMAR and the Environment and Natural Resources Ministry (SEMARNAT) updated technical guidelines for managing the contingency caused by the sargassum to address these difficulties. Both of these institutions established the Sargassum Monitoring System (Simsar), which aims to systematize information on the volumes of sargassum collected, which will allow improvements in the supervision of strategies. The information obtained by these institutions will be available to the public.

As previously reported by MBN, sargassum has become a constant problem for hotels and visitors throughout the Caribbean coast for at least five years. Mexican beaches began to see large quantities of sargassum in 2011 and the amount that washed on their shores increased over the years. The guidelines created by SEMAR and SEMARNAT establish technical specifications for gathering sargassum in the open sea, containment and removal in barriers, removal on beaches, and treatment before its final disposal. The document also serves as a guideline for monitoring the algae to obtain information regarding its possible use. 

According to the Green Peace website, an increase in ocean surface temperature due to climate change favors the reproduction of sargassum. The floating algae serves as a habitat for marine animals, fertilizes and protects coastal stability. However, an excessive amount on beaches can generate many problems and must be removed. The decomposition of the algae emits an unpleasant odor and attracts insects. 

María Fernanda Barría María Fernanda Barría Junior Journalist and Industry Analyst